Thoughts on Football by a Newly Baptized American
The arrogance of America is at its height when it has the nerve to literally steal the name of the world’s most popular thing. So I will be using the word soccer once but only so that I can tell you that it will be referred to as international football forever and always. Because they know we’re dicks but at least they have the respect to call American football American football and not eggerball.
For the first time in recent memory everyone is talking about international football even in America. Some people would have you believe this is the end of America. Those people are right. Just kidding, but what if? What if I just rehashed the racist, sexist, ethnicism, elitist, entirely stupid, “let’s see if I can trick the Crackle Barrel eating middle Americans again”, hateful tirade of Ann Coulter and just wrote it here for you? I’d be a fucking asshole; good for you, I’m not a fucking asshole, not on Saturdays. Actually international football is America’s first step to being no longer hated by every other country in the world so it’s really only a good thing for USA. But that’s the last patriotic bullshit you’ll hear from me, because this is my thoughts on football, not my thoughts on America, a place for which my reverence extends to not having to put in a country code for phone numbers and getting most big blockbusters first. Other than that, I’m really “eh, who give two fucks and a basket banana muffins” about the self-proclaimed and deluded “greatest country on earth”.
Back to football.
By all accounts this has been an excellent world cup. I wouldn’t know because, in my life, I have seen one other world cup in which I only watched the matches the Netherlands were playing in so this is a first for me. I’ve caught almost every single match of this world cup and they have all been thrilling, with a few exceptions, I’m looking at you Iran v Nigeria. The narrative across all the sports blogs and podcasts is that this is America falling in love with football. At first I was on board for that but it turns out what they meant—which has become evident with ESPN’s latest coverage of the world cup—is that they want us to be in love with the MLS. Bating someone with the world cup and switching MLS on them is tantamount to showing someone this year’s first round of the NBA playoffs as their first taste of basketball, then come October taking them to a bunch of WNBA games. Sure it’s the same sport, but no, they’re not the same thing at all. MLS has 11 players in the world cup not playing for the US; those 11 players have achieved a total of 24 caps, two goals (scored by the same guy), zero assists, and eight yellow cards. Yes Americans could be falling in love with football, the problem is America doesn’t have the resources to appease the new desire.
But what do I think about football? Regardless of Americans’ new fascination with the world’s past-time, what is it that I think about this fairly new phenomenon? I have become enthralled. The beauty of football is unmatched in any sport as far as I’m concerned barring basketball. The drama of a great ball and a fantastic break are rivaled in almost no other sporting situation. What Messi, Neymar, Rodriguez, Robben, and Benzema have been able to do with the ball is more art than it is sport. And watching the battle between them and brilliant defenders like Marquez and Aurier has been astounding. The goalkeeper is the most fascinating figure on the pitch: alone but counted on and surrounded by his team. Besides the devastation of an own-goal there is no one man who ever gets the blame like a keeper. Left on an island with an impossible task he is an unenviable figure. But when he is the hero he is the hero like no other. What is more exciting than a last minute goal? Or the suspense as a cross arcs its way toward an attacker. Football is a religion in every other country in the world besides the staunchly defiant America and the ice-obsessed Canada, and the question has to be “why”.
Where does international football stack up against the sports of America? The complaint of many is that nothing ever happens in football; matches will last 90 minutes and end in a tie regularly, where is the fulfillment in that? To which I respond, baseball. Baseball is a never ending game, of pseudo-athletes with the impressive ability to do the exact same things over and over and over and over and over again. It’s no wonder there’s so many drugs in the sport if I had to play this “sport” for a living I’d shoot anything into my arm I could get my hands on. Hockey of course is 4% of America’s answer to soccer. It’s so much faster paced; there’s fighting; it’s got the best athletes in the world. So some think. Those some are also the same people who set their alarms for fox and friends and vote for pro-life anti-immigrant candidates whose sole goal is to fuck their base as hard and fast as they possibly can. So the question we must ask ourselves—do we really care what the hockey fanatics like? I don’t. If a bunch of heavily padded men ice skating, and running into each other and walls as hard as they can and occasionally hitting a little black object is your thing; let that be your thing. But to their credit it’s got a goalie and it kind of looks like someone froze a football pitch and threw a bunch of Russians on it so maybe they’re right, maybe it’s the best substitute for football we’ve got. Then of course there is American football, a sport that I care about just a little bit. I couldn’t name you all the players on a single team in the sport but if I catch a game on TV at a friend’s house it manages to keep my interest which is something I cannot say for the two aforementioned sports. The structure of American football is a little irritating there’s more stopping than there is playing but the insistent athleticism and unashamed brutish violence of the sport is fun at least. The quarterback is a figure unmatched in any other sport, more of a coach than a player and with so many variants on the position it’s easy to love, hate, and become enthralled with your favorite QBs. Of course, there is basketball, as far as I’m concerned this is the hip-hop of sports: it’s the best and I’ll hear no arguments to the contrary. International football will never match up to the beauty of the fast-break or the perfection of finishing in traffic, but second best is not all bad—just ask Watson. Golf is amazing but it’s not a sport, it just isn’t, but I can assure you I’d rather watch that non-sport than the non-sport that is baseball and certainly more than hockey. You may be wondering why I left out NASCAR, combat sports, tennis, and lacrosse; you shouldn’t be.
Are there things I think are irritating about football? Naturally, I think stoppage time is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen in a sport. Today I watch Di Maria of Argentina writhe on the ground for a solid five minutes while the clock ticketed away cutting into Belgium’s time to make a comeback. Not only was I furious that Argentina won the match I was furious that he wasted so much time laying on the fucking pitch. There is no other sport in which the clock goes while you can’t score, which I think seems like a pretty common sense rule. I don’t like any match that can end in a tie so easily and football is the worst offender, but short of eliminating offsides there’s little to be done about that (I have a whole other thing about offsides but I’ll leave it). But even with that in situations that must be settled with a victor PKs are the dumbest way to do it. Just keep playing football. But I can easily get past those minor annoyances and it would be nice to finally have a second sport to care about because the basketball season is long, but the dark days of the offseason seem even longer. Will football knock down to third the currently tied at second golf and football in my list of sport and sport-ish type things to watch? Of course, but only if I can find a way to watch international leagues here. Plus, being a complete Europhile, it seems like it’s about time I start acting like it.
For more of the amazing videos that were intersperced throughout this article you’re asking yourself why you just watched visit Richard Swarbrick’s Youtube page.